United Nations monitoring rebel withdrawal from Yemen’s Hodeida

Members of the World Food Programme visit the Red Sea mills warehouse in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on 5 May 2019

United Nations monitoring rebel withdrawal from Yemen’s Hodeida

Yemen's Houthi rebels on Saturday began a long-delayed withdrawal of forces from the port facility in the key city of Hodeida, the group said, following the terms of a December cease-fire aimed at alleviating the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the rebels' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the pullout from Hodeida, as well as the two smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, began in the morning.

The UN Security Council is due to hear a briefing on Hodeida on Wednesday - a day after the rebel withdrawal is expected to be completed.

"The UN has started monitoring this unilateral step", a source told AFP.

"The UN hopes soon to be in a position to report to the Security Council on actual movements on the ground".

Hodeida saw fierce clashes from June past year as pro-government forces surged up the coast into Huthi-held territory and briefly seized the city's airport.

Yemen's government had described the move - a major step since a ceasefire deal last December - as a rebel "ploy". A United Nations official said the office of United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths was facilitating the meeting.

A team of Yemen's Houthi rebels traveled to Jordan's capital Amman on Sunday night to engage in UN-sponsored economic confidence-building negotiations between the Yemeni rival parties, Houthi TV al-Masirah reported on Monday.

"What happened today is a flagrant show, a group of militiamen left and they were replaced by others wearing coastguard police uniforms", Mr Al Eryani said.

He warned that the Houthi announcement aimed at misleading the worldwide community just days before convening the next session of the UN Security Council to avoid any firm global stance.

He added that the Houthis must commit to fully following through on the redeployment.

While the Houthi move encouraged foreign powers pushing to re-open humanitarian corridors, displaced Hodeidah residents said they were not ready to return.

"The government rejects any unilateral withdrawal of the rebel forces from Hodeidah without allowing for a joint monitoring and verification of implementing the Stockholm Agreement", said Iryani.

Hodeidah has become the focus of the war since previous year when the coalition twice tried to seize its port to cut off the Houthis' main supply line.

A United Nations source told Reuters on Saturday that the RCC would announce its assessment of the Houthi redeployment next week.

The rebel withdrawal is part of a ceasefire agreement that requires all forces to pull out of Hodeidah and for the ports to be placed under United Nations supervision. Coalition forces, now massed 4km from Hodeidah port on the edges of the city, are to retreat 1km from two flashpoint districts.

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